Every extra drop of adrenaline provided by Alex Ovechkin's game-tying, overtime-forcing tally was coursing through the Washington Capitals in extra time of Game 2 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series. They dominated play and sparked bedlam from the capacity crowd behind them, but all the momentum of that setting wouldn't keep the Tampa Bay Lightning from taking advantage of one mistake.
Veteran defenseman Scott Hannan thought he could get off the ice for a change and his replacement, Jeff Schultz, would be in position before the puck made its way back to the Capitals' end. The Lightning noticed the change and quickly turned up ice.
With 6 minutes, 19 seconds gone in the extra period, Vincent Lecavalier sent a shot above Michal Neuvirth's glove on a two-on-one as a result of the change to seal a 3-2 Tampa Bay victory. The Lightning hold a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Wednesday.
"I thought the puck was going in behind," Hannan said. "When you make mistakes, it costs in the playoffs. I was a little tired and thought I could get off in time, but obviously, I couldn't. It was a bad play."
The Capitals had managed to put forth a better all-around performance than in the series opener, but a sterile power play prevented them from taking any tangible control over the game once again.
Despite being heavily outshot, 37-23, the Lightning, whose Dwayne Roloson completed a critical 35-save outing, was able to capitalize off bounces and Washington's mistakes, thanks largely to the calmness it has developed, having now won five consecutive postseason games, four of them on the road.
It was that ability to stay the course, even with pandemonium erupting from those clad in red when Ovechkin tied the score at 2 with 67 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra time, that coach Guy Boucher credited for Tampa Bay's success.
"I think over the course of these playoffs what the players and this team has learned is to stay calm under pressure, and that's what the players did," Boucher said. "We reloaded and I always believe it's not about momentum, it's about desperation."
When the Capitals pulled Neuvirth (20 saves) late in the third and Ovechkin scored, they were the desperate team. But after so many missed scoring chances both at even strength and on the power play it raised the question whether they should have been in that situation in the first place.
"You've got to come up with something," Mike Knuble said of the power play. "It was our undoing last year. It's what cost us last year. It was good in the Rangers series and it was the difference that helped get us through that series. It's pretty obvious [that's what's missing] because they've chipped in one each night. In these tight games, you get one on the power play that's like a bonus."
While the Capitals forced their way back to tie and prompt a third trip into extra time this postseason, they weren't able to wrap up a victory and now face a critical two games in the next three days.
"Well, the series is not over," Ovechkin said when asked how the Capitals will respond. "We're going there and we're going to win two games. It's going to be hard. Right now, in this situation we have to win."
First period--1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 3 (St. Louis, Malone), 19:01 (pp).
Second period--2, Washington, Laich 1 (Backstrom, Erskine), 14:52.
Third period--3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 5 (Purcell), 7:35. 4, Washington, Ovechkin 4 (Arnott, Laich), 18:52.
First overtime--5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 4 (Purcell, R.Jones), 6:19.
Shots on goal--Tampa Bay 6-3-11-3--23. Washington 11-16-5-5--37. Goalies--Tampa Bay, Roloson. Washington, Neuvirth. A--18,398 (18,398). T--2:50.